The Chinese are coming!

Vince in ChongqingChinese Premier Li Keqiang left on Monday this week on a 5 day visit to Britain and Greece.  With him, according to the press, is a 200 strong business delegation, expected to sign up some £18 billion worth of deals.

Just over 2 weeks ago, I was part of Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable’s business delegation to China, taking in 5 cities in 6 days.  Vince was scheduled to be in Beijing to attend UK-China Joint Economic & Trade Committee (JETC) talks with his opposite number, Mr Gao HuCheng, the Minister of Commerce.

He took advantage of this official visit to bring with him a delegation of 80 companies and with support from the local staff of UKTI and CBBC (China Britain Business Council).   We were organised into 3 groups: Construction, Water and Environment, and Smart Cities(IT), each taking in a slightly different itinerary but overlapping with the Vince Cable in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chongqing.

As Vince highlighted in one of his addresses, China’s undergoing one of the biggest phases of urbanisation, 100 times that of what Britain went through during the industrial revolution.  No less than 350 million people are expected to move into the cities from now till 2030.  This massive urbanisation programme offers opportunities for UK companies, especially those involved in design and engineering, environmental specialists and IT companies.

However, many of the business leaders accompanying the Chinese Premier’s visit, take the form of large state-owned enterprises and investment funds, with interest in securing stakes in key infrastructural projects, such as the building of nuclear plants and high speed rail.

Which leads me to the question:  how should UK and China work in “partnership”?    Wherein lies the balance of power in business and in politics?

Chinese Liberal Democrats recently commissioned a report on UK-China twinned cities (as previously  blogged here).   Given the size/population of some Chinese cities and the greater devolved powers that Chinese municipal and provincial governments have, some of these twinnings may appear somewhat unbalanced.

To consider this and other challenges, Chinese Liberal Democrats have organised a Conference on 25 June with The University of Nottingham on this hot topic.  In studying four pairings: Liverpool and Shanghai, Manchester and Wuhan, Nottingham and Ningbo, and Sheffield and Chengdu, we analysed the roles the local council, universities and businesses could play to make twinning a success and how this can be measured in terms of increased trade and job creation.


To join us in taking forward these discussions, to share best practice and find answers to our questions, you are welcome to sign up for the conference here.  (The registration fee for the conference will be waived for members of Liberal Democrats and friends of Chinese Liberal Democrats).

* Merlene was co-founder of Chinese Liberal Democrats and on the executive of the LibDems Overseas. She co-edited “Rise of China – Fresh Insights and Observations” published by the Paddy Ashdown Forum (2021)

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  • Charles Rothwell 17th Jun '14 - 12:37pm

    Looks a very interesting event. (Also to turn to a previous topic on this forum earlier (“Is being in the EU worth it for the UK?”), both the Government (Michael Fallon) and Labour speakers on yesterday’s “Daily Politics” made it abundantly clear that the UK would be of vastly less interest to Chinese (and Japanese and US) investors if the UK were outside of the EU! I personally would somehow prefer to base my prognoses on recent reports from the CBI (November 2013) and the Centre for European Reform (two weeks ago) making it clear how important EU membership is to the UK rather than what the “UKIP neighbours” of the person posting the message have to say over the garden fence about the matter. I must, however, concede that, while Nick’s challenge to Farage and the whole “IN” campaign succeeded in persuading me to rejoin the Party, I do not think he did a very effective job in advocating UK membership but was too “wooly”/lacking in vision of what a reformed EU could deliver (as against the immigrants and Euro crisis most people just relying on the mass media probably currently link it with) and going on about “3 million jobs” in very general terms (where? in which sectors? where are the real areas of growth? what impact would leaving in terms of wages, working conditions etc? would a lack of EU immigrants merely be replaced by others from outside the EU?) did not hack it for the majority of viewers. A great shame a ‘real’ economist like Chris Huhne could not (for very obvious reasons) have taken on Farage instead!

  • Yes well Mr Huhne’s very public disgrace precluded that, and precludes it in perpetuity.

    He is now toxic for your party, and you would be better advised pretending he never existed than bemoaning his absence. Can you not see that Farage would rip him apart in debate too? How would he answer the plain speaking man’s attacks on his moral turpitude? It would be painful to watch…

  • Charles Rothwell 17th Jun '14 - 2:21pm


    Loosen up. I sincerely doubt if Farage would have been able to land as many wins against Huhne, but of course we shall never know. As regards “moral turpitude”, I suggest we await the outcome of certain matters before casting stones too readily:

    Have a nice day.

  • Jonathan Pile 17th Jun '14 - 3:08pm

    @ Charles Rothwell
    I too shared enthusiasm at the idea of making the case for Europe – but what a poor job Clegg made of it, considering it was his challenge. His 7% claim about the proportion of UK Law derived from Europe rang false despite being techincally true while he failed to Nail Farage’s provable lie about 75% coming from europe that has been debunked on several occasions by Radio 4’s Statistics Tsar Tim Halford on More or Less. As for Chris Hunhe, I voted for him in 2007 against Clegg and was sad that he lost by a slim margin. What he said against Clegg in 2007 has been upheld, and his personal lack of honesty over the speeding points might be interestingly compared to Clegg’s lack of Clarity over the direction of the party to right , and his pledge to students over Tuition Fees. Which lie hurt to country & party the most? Debatable. Chris Huhne & Charlie Kennedy both fell from power to Clegg’s gain.

  • “How would he answer the plain speaking man’s attacks on his moral turpitude?”
    Your expenses?

  • Silent hunter
    ” Some violent extremist terrorist groups have now emerged. They are colluding with foreign groups and are attempting violent activities in Xinjiang and other areas in China intended to destroy China’s national policy and social stability. We hope that everyone can recognize the goal of these violent groups and support the Chinese government’s will to crack down on all violent terrorist activities. ”
    Sound familiar?

  • Rabi Martins 17th Jun '14 - 10:47pm

    I attended the Sexual Violence in conflict last week There were several countries represented there with whom Britain happily does trade Silent Hunter is sadly right – the UK is just as willing as any other country to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in order to protect our trading interests It is a pity that Liberal Democrats Ministers are now happy to go along with the government in this vain

  • Rabi Martins 17th Jun '14 - 10:58pm

    I am pleased to read another post where Nick Clegg condemns Human rights abuses in China
    He has just gone up significantly in my estimationIn response,

    Constrast that with the following Tory take on the situation
    Michael Fallon, the Conservative business minister, said that human rights should not be allowed to “get in the way” of growing trade links.

    Thank God there is clear blue water between us and the Tories on ths mportant issue

  • peter tyzack 18th Jun '14 - 10:04am

    Thank you Rabi for getting back to the subject..!
    This Conference is a most important event, just a pity it is probably not possible to get there at this short notice.
    Having been to Chongqing last year I learnt very quickly how limited my knowledge of the country is, and seemingly many other Brits too.. How many have even heard of Chongqing, let alone know that its population is more than the whole UK. But I met lovely people, and saw a most beautiful country. In some spheres they are well ahead of us and in others well behind(but catching up quick!) so twinning our major cities has got to be a good move.. just a pity that Bristol is not in the list.?

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